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E. Working to Biodegrade MTBE Contamination

Narrator: This is Science Today. MTBE, a gasoline additive initially used to clean the air, but later linked to polluted groundwater supplies, is being phased out. The decision was based on a University of California study, which found that the carcinogenic chemical was contaminating drinking water. Meanwhile, chemical engineer Mark Deshusses of the University of California, Riverside has been working on ways to biodegrade the MTBE that's still out there.

Deshusses: We use microbes to break down the chemicals and we took some cultures from contaminated sites - some microbial cultures. It does get broken down over time and that's a very interesting finding because it was not known until very recently that MTBE could be degraded.

Narrator: The challenge is getting MTBE to biodegrade in the field as well as it does in the lab.

Deshusses: It's really important to find a solution. MTBE moves very rapidly in the soil, underground. So when you have a leak, very quickly you will find it in your drinking water.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.